What’s in Fashion?

In Association withspatial-camira

Farrell Chandler, Ultrafabrics/Bronte Turner, Hlw/Jerry Khan, Stylist & Fashion Expert/Maria Kafel – bentkowska, priestman goode/Ayanthi attanayake, scott brownrigg/Roger Beckett, architect & planner

Once associated with the cutting edge and the latest in technological developments, the world of corporate interiors looks at the word ‘fashion’ in a negative manner. It is seen by some in the world of corporate interiors as temporary – as ‘faddish’ – rather than the timeless, classical look and feel designers and clients alike strive for. But is this the majority opinion or are our young creatives once again looking towards fashion as an influence?

There are certainly lessons and elements that interior designers can take from the fashion industry. We take a look at the issues of sustainability, durability, ‘buy well buy once’, the ethics involved in manufacturing, leather versus synthetic materials etc.

Our discussion is sponsored by Ultrafabrics – the leading Japanese/US pioneer in the polyurethane leather industry, creating the most enhanced fabrics on the market for cars, airlines and yachts.

We begin by asking whether our designers feel there is a negative connotation towards the fast-paced fashion world.

Ayanthi: Not at all – for me it’s an influence and inspiration. I think all the creative industries have an impact on one another – there’s a crossover between all of the creative industries. With fashion, if you look at pre-seasonal trends, they often come out with their catwalk shows and trends before the season and this then gets filtered down to other industries.

Maria: They can also work so much faster on projects. It’s a much faster process than we work on, for example. Because of that they can experiment and, due to technological advancements, they can play around with limitations and certifications.


Roger: In a way, interior designers and architects are having to work in genres rather than fashion trends because, as has already been said, the turnaround in fashion is so quick. When you are planning interior schemes you can’t follow all these fashion trends – you can maybe take a view but can’t follow specifically. You can link what you’re doing with fashion and take influence.

Maria: For us, it’s more about the techniques. You can pick up techniques from the fashion world rather than just leopard print! Our clients are looking for timeless designs and, as a company who does a lot of work in transport, cultural references. We’re much more interested in looking at trends and different techniques that can be applied, what the emerging materials are and how we can translate that.

Ayanthi: In terms of technique I think the design industry could be informing the fashion industry. You see a lot of processes working their way into fashion.

Jerry: I think it works both ways. Laser cutting, for example, has been around in fashion for quite a long time.

Roger: Laser cutting is a great example – it has gone from fashion into interiors. We’ve been working with a lighting company where we’re laser cutting leather in a similar way to you laser cut leather for handbags.

Bronte: Fashion is not only in materials and techniques – there is also fashion in how we design spaces, how spaces work and how people engage with a space. There is a ‘fashion’ for collaborative settings, for example. Fashion informs how people engage and use a space. As a very generalistic view, our clients’ footprints are getting smaller and that’s because of technology and perhaps if it wasn’t fashionable to have an iPhone it wouldn’t have the same impact on how we use space, the types of spaces we do use, smart buildings etc – all these awesome things. I’m quite anti-fashion because I think space should be about a brief and a brief doesn’t necessarily come from a colour palette or a fashion or a material palette. When we engage with our clients, we try to understand them and their brief – and then add materials, techniques and look and feel. As designers, we should be creating space that encourages people to act and do certain things – without forcing it.

“Fashion is not only in materials and techniques – there is also fashion in how we design spaces, how spaces work and how people engage with a space.”

Bronte and HLW work with some of the most ‘fashionable’ brands on the planet, we mention.


Bronte: Yes – and a lot of people assume what a company such as Google wants. When you really look at what Google wants – when you dive a bit deeper – this is a brand that has grown up a lot. When you take a brief from Google it’s not about putting a slide in the corner or using red plastics, they’re a lot deeper and a lot more mature than that – and they want their space to reflect this. They don’t want to lose their inspiration or their creativity, but they are a lot more sophisticated than they were 15 years ago.

Jerry: Fashion is everywhere, whether you like it or not. You find trends that are short-term but there are also designers who ‘have a look’ and they develop that look for 20 years. They are not slaves to fashion trends but they do have their own specific looks.

Ayanthi: At times that can work against them. If you’re too defined by your look and feel, it’s almost like every project or collection has basically the same look. When it comes to interiors, it does need to be specific to the brief.

Bronte: The look and feel shouldn’t be based on the materials or the looks – they should be based on the clients’ words. But if you look at hotel design, for example, how do you describe what your clientele is going to be like or how your business is going to succeed? I guess this is where the designer comes in – where the designer has to interpret, to define.

“Fashion is everywhere, whether you like it or not. You find trends that are short-term but there are also designers who ‘have a look’ and they develop that look for 20 years.”


Maria: This is the big difference between fashion and interiors – interiors have to be connected to the brief and more reactionary to specific projects and the space they are working with.

Jerry: In saying that, a number of fashion designers have moved into interiors. Armani has its interiors range, for example. Maybe fashion is the wrong word to use here – maybe we should call it style rather than fashion.

Roger: I agree. Fashion is a word that should be parked with retailers of clothes. When it comes to architects, interiors and their products, I think there does need to be another word that is essentially saying ‘We’re thinking about what is going on in the world today’. Also, when you talk about people having ‘a look’ – it is often the look that you are selling. David Collins might not be around any more, but the studio’s still going, and people would say ‘I want David Collins’ – because that is the look. Chopping and changing is ok I think when you’re in fashion – so it’s ok for Prada to say leopard print one day and then say platform heels and mirror balls the next!

Jerry: If you think about it, from a fashion perspective, these brands still have a look – you know the difference between Armani and Versace. You either like that look or you don’t.

Bronte: Clothing fashion is so much faster and can be slightly more controversial.

Maria: Consumers are influenced by fashion and I think because fashion and trends move so quickly that when designers put inspiration boards together they naturally look at fashion and that whole genre. In terms of interiors, all designers look at different sectors and different areas and we all influence each other – we just work at different paces. It’s all creativity at the end of the day. We always have trends that are repeating – they always come back but in a slightly different way. We tend to take elements of the things that we know already work. Technology and manufacturing techniques allow things to become cheaper and to filter into the market. Also, we’re influenced by what we feel is the right thing to do  – we’re more conscious about everything. Sustainability was such a big issue six years ago but is now a given.

Ayanthi: We are a consumer society and we do need to start thinking differently about how we live our lives.

Farrell: We’ve certainly felt a shift in people’s thinking. I think one of the problems in the past that has been overcome – and this has already been seen in the fashion world with designers such as Stella McCartney – is that we’re now able to provide clients with something that is more textured, is more engineered, is of a higher quality. There are now viable synthetic alternatives to natural materials that offer fire retardant properties, are simple to clean and maintain and offer significant advantages. The snobbery associated with these materials is disappearing – people now look and feel at the latest synthetic products and realise that these are very different from those sub-standard products that were once the only alternative.

Conclusion: As has already been said by our esteemed panel, each and every creative sector is influenced by and takes inspiration from other creative sectors. Fashion feeds interiors, but then again interiors can also influence fashion. Is fashion going out of fashion? Certainly not. Maybe we just need to be slightly more careful about how and when we sue the word fashion